2012 Volunteer Ireland Awards, Community

Sharon Parker-Byrne, New Oak Estate Community

Carlow, Category Winner

Sharon was nominated to the committee of New Oak Community in 2003 as treasurer, where she fulfilled her role and took on additional roles in the community at the time helping to revamp New Oak Estate and working to eradicate the negative reputation the estate had developed in the past. In 2006 Sharon was voted in as Chairperson of the committee and has excelled in this role since.

Sharon personally saw to it that the estate was cleaned up and began volunteering to cut the grass and organise fundraisers, field days and celebrations in the community. Sharon organised Christmas parties where every child in the estate received a gift. To arrange these parties, Sharon walked into every shop in her local town seeking donations to make it possible each year. Senior citizens in the estate received gift vouchers for turkey and ham or a tin of sweets.

In June 2006 the New Oak Community Centre was opened and Sharon led the committee in running the centre and volunteering with the youth to achieve a well-established community centre with activities available for all ages. The estate has been recognized with a number of awards in ‘Carlow Pride of Place’, including Best Overall Large Estate, a huge achievement for Sharon and the residents association. Sharon has recently restarted an after-schools activity club free of charge to parents from any area and runs this club herself along with members of the community, having an attendance of over 30 children in the first week.

Sharon has personally suffered a lot with her health in the past few years surviving cervical cancer, a heart attack and suffering from various other conditions, none of which have stopped her from leading the committee in running the centre and maintaining and improving the estate and fun days for the community. There were many phone calls made from her hospital bed giving instructions and organising meetings and fundraisers for the community. During her time in hospital Sharon had to deal with the loss of her mother and other personal issues, but rather than deter her from her work it motivated her to push harder to maintain the centre and lead her committee and activity groups.

Kelly Byrne nominated Sharon for a Volunteer Ireland Awards, Kelly said, “Sharon is a role model in our estate and there are no residents or community members that can question her commitment to this estate and community. To me Sharon is one in a million and I along with many residents and members of the BINGO club believe Sharon deserves recognition for this outstanding work.”

Photograph by Joan Wall